Although legal experts warned at the time that little would come of Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) attempt to prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner for contempt of Congress, Republicans on Issa's Oversight and Government Reform Committee were infuriated to learn Thursday that a key obstacle is a Reagan administration legal opinion.
Issa's committee and then the full House voted to hold Lerner in contempt because she twice asserted her Fifth Amendment right in refusing to testify about her role in the IRS's botched screening of political nonprofits. She led the unit that oversees whether such groups get tax breaks, and was in charge when an inspector general found the IRS used "inappropriate" terms that largely singled out conservative groups.
When Congress finds a person in contempt, the matter is referred to federal prosecutors to be brought before a grand jury.
Legal experts advised against taking the step, and one of them, Gregory Gilchrist, told HuffPost at the time that it was unlikely a prosecutor would take up such a case, even though federal law spells out that pathway.